1998's Mulan, which was a loose adaptation of an ancient Chinese legend, followed Fa Mulan as she masqueraded as a man in the Chinese army in order to spare her father from another war. In the film, Mulan and the imperial army march across the land to face the Hun invasion, which is led by the ruthless Shan Yu, the film's main antagonist.
However, the live-action remake is taking some major liberties with the original and changing its villain to the witch Xian Lang, who actor Gong Li has now revealed details about in an interview posted on Weibo.
Although she didn't get into spoilers or specifics, she did reveal what fans can expect from the character, saying (translated from Mandarin), "I've never played a villain but with this role -- audiences will feel she's a villain in the beginning but toward the end, they'll see why."
The actor went on to compare her character to the White Bone Spirit, a shapeshifting demoness from the classic Chinese novel, Journey to the West. Xian Lang is a powerful witch who, as Gong described, "can turn herself into a thousand eagles." Clearly, Xian Lang -- whose name roughly translates to "fairy wolf" -- is a vastly different villain than Shan Yu. "There was no witch in the original," Gong said, "there was a man but he wasn't that important. [Xian Lang] will become important in this movie [...] audiences will understand why this character is the way she is, what she wants -- they've handled the character very well."
The remake seems to be leaning more into magic than its animated predecessor, which only really featured Mushu, who is rumored to make an appearance in the remake. Gong Li also revealed Walt Disney Pictures has reportedly invested more than $300 million into the Mulan remake, which is a record high for the House of Mouse.
Mulan is the latest live-action remake from Disney. The House of Mouse has already adapted Beauty & the Beast, The Jungle Book, Dumbo and several other films, which have met with varying levels of financial and critical success. There are two live-action remakes scheduled for this year: Guy Ritchie's Aladdin and Jon Favreau's Lion King.
Mulan, directed by Niki Caro, stars Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Yoson An, Gong Li and Jet Lee. The film is scheduled to open on March 27, 2020.